As a student, I often supplemented my income by playing piano under instrumental or vocal soloists. I enjoy the chance to carefully listen and adapt to someone’s needs in the moment. I love the teaching and cheer leading roles that often come with the job, and the chance to be part of something absolutely beautiful–without being the main focus.
The Peru delegation focused on a ministry of accompaniment. In our preparations, our group several times discussed the meaning and role of accompaniment, and how this translates to our ministry. In Spanish, accompaniment is acompanamiento, which literally breaks down to “with bread.”
In Peru, carbs are a big deal. We had bread every morning for breakfast, always with butter and jam, sometimes with cheese or eggs or tamales. Lunch and dinner often included both rice and potatoes–and at a minimum, one or the other. Biblically, of course, the breaking of bread is also “kind of a big deal” (to quote my first sermon, apologies for the shameless self-promotion here). Throughout our time in Peru, we broke bread together–over meals with pastors, congregation members, neighborhood children, present and future leaders of the Peruvian Lutheran church. We shared the Eucharist with each other, acknowledging that we are one family and are fed by the same source–regardless of where we live. We broke bread together.
More than anything else, we shared in that sacred space as our brothers and sisters shared their faith and their lives with us. Church in generally has barriers. There are certainly technology ones. There are physical issues of space and how to get people into that space. There are emotional and social barriers that people put up within a community. And for many churches, there are economic barriers as buildings struggle to survive.
In Peru, distance and economic barriers are the two more pressing problems right now. There are sixteen faith communities, but geographically, they are far apart. Finances are tight, and there aren’t enough pastors to go around. The pastors that are there rarely get paid, and work full-time jobs to support themselves and their families–beyond pastoral duties. They trust that God will guide and make everything work out somehow, but they are being challenged now.
This wasn’t a traditional “mission trip,” though it was church folks, mainly young people, going somewhere to do “gospel-y” things. We were a delegation of accompaniment. As part of this accompaniment ministry, we listened. We supported. We adapted our plans and our schedules and our expectations. We reminded our Peruvian friends that they are not alone. We support each other in thoughts and in prayers, we converse and discuss and face problems together. Most importantly, we broke bread–together.